Monday, 22 April 2013

The AirSpace Bird Yarden - The Final Stretch

There's still a bit more to do in the Yarden before launch day on May 4th.

Last week we offered members of Airspace the chance to choose the colur of the plant beds and seating. We offered four choices, Moss Green, Pale Blue, Terracotta and Black. In a close run race conducted under a first past the post, one meber one vote system,, terracotta and Yarden democracy won out.

And so, at the weekend, the planting bed, and seating area were duly painted in as near to terracotta as we could find - in truth it is more an AirSpace orange than a terracotta, but we think (hope) it will age darker, as you need sunglasses to look at it at the moment!

Right from the startof the design process, we identified the need and desire to have a mini-beasts wall or bug hotel! as a centre-piece for the Yarden, not only as an essential wildlife garden feature, but also to act as a screen dividing the yarden from the Gallery driveway.

In natural habitats there are endless nooks and crannies where mini-beasts, properly known as invertebrates, can shelter. Crevices in bark, holes in dead wood, piles of fallen leaves, gaps between rocks, hollow plant stems, spaces in dead logs – all these can provide a home for the myriad small creatures that need somewhere tonest or to escape from predators or bad weather. Established gardens can also provide lots of hiding places, but gardeners often like to tidy away the debris where invertebrates might live.

A surprisingly wide variety of invertebrates including nesting mason bees and leaf cutter bees, woodlice hiding from the sun – and woodlice spiders hunting woodlice, earwigs hiding their babies from predators, ladybirds and lacewings hibernating over winter, beetle larvae feeding on the dead wood, funnel web spiders spinning their traps and centipedes hunting down their prey.

Our Mini-beasts wall consisted of all of the left-over materials from the Yarden build, including rubble, bricks, discarded timber etc. To this we added some reclaimed ceramic tubes, the hay that our frangula Alnus was delivered in, some moss, and some bamboo canes which we hope will provide the perfect place for the odd solitary bee.

To finish the wall, we constructed a planter for our orange-berry rowan tree, and a picket gate.

That means, all that's left to do before May 4th, is to install the water feature, and the specially designed yarden gate, through which the public will get access to the Yarden. More details and pictures to follow.

The Bird Yarden - The Launch

After months in the planning, consultation, developing, building and planting, we can announce the final line-up and running order for the Opening of Conjunction 12's place-making project, the Bird Yarden.

On May 4th at 11:00 am, the doors will open on a new community creative space for Stoke-on-Trent. The running order will be:

11:00  - Doors Open. The five commissioned Yarden artworks, by; Pete Smith, Kate Lynch, Shelley Gregory, Cristina Fraser and Su Hurrell will be unveiled.

12:00 - 14:00 - The Garden Design Doctor - Trentham Gardens Garden Supervisor, Clive Mollart will deliver a talk on the "7 Principles of Good Garden Design", and will also provide advice on your small urban garden problems. bring along photos, or descriptions of awkward or problem areas of your garden/yard areas, and Clive, who is designing and exhibiting a show garden at this year's Hampton Court Flower Show, will offer some invaluable advice.

14:00 - 15:00 - BBC Countryfile stalwart, and author of "How To Make a Wildlife Garden", Professor Chris Baines presents a talk entitled, "Wildlife Gardening and the Nature of the Future".

Copies of Chris's book, will be available to buy from the Gallery on the day.

15:00 - 16:00 - Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's David Tideswell will demonstrate how to build the ideal birdbox and bird feeder. David, based in Uttoxeter, is an ornithologist, a well-known speaker and lecturer on birds and a regular pundit answering questions on Stuart George's programme on BBC Radio Stoke. During the demonstration he will offer invaluable tips on how to attract birds to your spaces and the best feed for particular birds, as well as taking questions. 

David's self-published pamphlet on all thing birds, full of practical tips, facts and bird feed recipes will be available from the gallery on the day.

16:00 - 18:00 - Food and refreshments, workshops and activities. 

Kate Lynch will run a Seed Bomb-making workshop, ideal for all the family. 

There will be the opportunity to paint and decorate your own bird shape, which will then be weather-proofed and the collective flock will be attached to the Yarden wall to form a bespoke Yarden artwork.

18:00 - 19:00 - Speaking in Tongues by Sarah R. Key. 2011 Threadneedle Prize finalist, Sarah R. Key will lead a talk and tour of her exhibition, currently on show at AirSpace Gallery, giving an insight into the works on display and her working practices.

Throughout the day, ambient Yarden soundscapes will accompany the activities, provided by Echomap.

We're really excited that the project is so close to completion, and can't wait to see the space filled with people, enjoying what we've created and seeing the birds who are using the space in ever-increasing numbers. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

AirSpace Yarden - Confirmation of Guest Speakers for the Grand Opening

Plans for a full day of talks and events which will comprise the AirSpace Bird Yarden's Grand Opening  are coming together, and we can confirm three great contributors.

Professor Chris Baines  is one of the UK’s leading independent environmentalists. He trained as a horticulturist and landscape architect, and for more than 40 years he has been a champion of urban wildlife and cross-sectoral partnership working.
He is an award winning writer and broadcaster.  His book How to Make a Wildlife Garden is regarded as a classic and has been continuously in print since 1985.  The Wild Side of Town won the first UK conservation book prize in 1987 and his environmental series for children’s ITV, The Ark, won an International Wildscreen Award the same year.   

Chris launched BBC Countryfile as one of its first presenters in 1988.

He works as an adviser to government and to industry, and has long-standing professional links with corporate clients in the urban regeneration, house building, water management, mineral extraction and financial investment industries.  From 1998 to 2010 he was a trustee and then a specialist adviser with the Heritage Lottery Fund, and he also advises Natural England, the Environment Agency and the water regulator OFWAT, CLG and DEFRA.  He was an environmental adviser for the London 2012 Olympics and in the 1980s he designed the landscape for the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle.
Chris has always played an active role in the voluntary sector.  He was one of the founders of the urban wildlife movement in the UK.  He has been a national Vice President of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts for almost 30 years, President of the Sustainable Building Association (AECB) for 20 years, and is also President of the Thames Estuary Partnership, the Essex Wildlife Trust and, more locally to where he lives in Wolverhampton, the Wildside Activity Centre.  In 2004 Chris was awarded the RSPB’s Medal of Honour for his contribution to sustainable land and water management and he is soon to receive the Peter Scott Award from the British Naturalists Association.  .

Chris has kindly agreed to come and talk at the opening, and will deliver a talk from 2pm, entitled,

"Wildlife gardening and the nature of the future"

We can also announce that Clive Mollart, Trentham Garden's Tour Guide, and former garden supervisor, will be hosting a "Garden Design Doctor" surgery event, from 12pm - 2pm.  This year, Clive is building a show garden as part of the 2013 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. 

Here's a link to a sound garden Clive built for a show garden  in 2010 for the Trentham Estate. 

At the AirSpace Yarden Opening, Clive will deliver a talk which covers the 7 principles of good garden design, and in the guise of the  Garden Design Doctor will also be on hand to answer your gardening queries and problems, so if you have a patch of land you don't know what to do with, or something you've done isn't quite working, bring some images with you and Clive will put you on the right track.

As well as being an award winning garden designer , Clive is also a musician, and one half of echomap, who create interactive sound installations, combining sensors and custom developed software to offer unique and immersive soundscapes. These installations generate music in real time, without the use of loops or recordings. echomap are currently putting together a proposal for the Bird Yarden's very own sound installation.


The final event of the day will be a talk from Sarah R. Key, whose exhibition, "Speaking in Tongues", will be on show at the same time.

Over the past decade, Sarah has developed a profile in contemporary painting, both nationally and internationally, exhibiting in major art venues in London, Stockholm and Dresden. Sarah’s work is represented in numerous private collections, has been awarded Arts Council Grants, as well as garnering art prizes and nominations over the past five years.

In 2010 her work was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Show; in 2011 for the prestigious Mostyn Open and Threadneedle Prize, where Sarah was a shortlisted finalist. Sarah has had four solo shows since 2009.

Currently Senior Lecturer and Award Leader in Fine Art at Staffordshire University, Sarah has been teaching in higher education since completing her MA in Painting at Wimbledon School of Art in 2001. During this period she also completed a PhD in Fine Art at Loughborough University.
Sarah, will give insights into her working practices, and themes whilst touring guests around her show.

We are also in talks with the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, and hope to announce a guest speaker on the subject of Urban Birdlife. We'll let you know as soon as we have confirmation.

The Yarden Opening promises to be a fun-filled and informative day, full of interesting talks, events, music and of course the Yarden itself. We're really excited about the developments, and can't wait to open it up for everyone to enjoy. Come and see us and get inspired to transform your own Yarden space.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Speaking In Tongues, a solo exhibition by Sarah R. Key

In two weeks, AirSpace Gallery will unveil its latest exhibition, Speaking In Tongues, a solo show of paintings, in two parts by the 2011 Threadneedle Prize nominee, Sarah R. Key.

In The Sky is Falling In - themes of worlds within worlds, and a sense of anthropomorphism, create a sense of tension, not only within the form of the paintings, as constructs within constructs clash and slightly jar, to create an otherworldly artificial reality, but also within the content, as ideas of nature versus the man-made are prevalent.
Anything But Natural, 120x100cm, acrylic on canvas, 2012
 'The scenes presented here may be prophetic and dreamlike, depicting a sense of desire for that which is other. The characters within them may be preaching or warning us, hiding or hunting. Their activities and motives are unclear, their status and relationships unknown. 
To their predicaments we must bring our own ideas about the world that we inhabit. The only thing we can know is that their identities remain unfixed and their masked faces offer little but a shifting palette of shape and colour that often betrays little. Here, the eyes and mouths are the only points of access we might have to any sense of an emotional condition. They seem to be saying ‘I want to be somewhere else; I want to be something else’. - Sarah R. Key

The contrast in the second part of Speaking in Tongues, Bird Songs To My Father comes as we turn from the ethereal to the personal. In brand new work, Sarah has produced 23 depictions of birds, taken from a found list her father had made of birds he'd spotted whilst on a trip to Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve, on the East Coast of England in 1976. 

        Meadow Pipet, 30x25cm, oil on canvas, 2012-2013

The objective approach taken by the method of actually painting the birds from the list has made the process of working with this subject more like a vessel through which to lament, quietly and from the safest of distances; time. The list, written in the back of my father’s bird book is his only remaining personally authored document, a snapshot of a longstanding preoccupation with something. There is specificity in this list that now seems to go beyond the day-to-day activity of simply spotting birds, having accumulated over time, for me, a kind of poetic status. - Sarah R. Key

Commissioned as part of Conjunction 12, Stoke-on-Trent's contemporary arts biennial, Speaking in Tongues marks a next step in Sarah's career.

The last 5 years has seen Sarah exhibit in Stockholm, Dresden and Seoul, in group and solo shows. In 2010, she was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Show, and the following year, had work selected for the prestigious Mostyn Open, and a nominee for the Threadneedle Prize for Painting and Sculpture.

See Sarah talking about her 2010 work , "THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF WARRENS AND OTHER HABITATS" from her solo show at the Tarpey Gallery, in July 2010.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

AirSpace Yarden - The final developments are underway

Developments in the AirSpace Bird Yarden are into the final straight. Over the last couple of months, come rain, snow or shine, we have transformed an overgrown and underused back yard into a space almost ready for public use and already-ready for the local birdlife, who are revelling in their new home.

In those 2 months, we have -

  • constructed two large planting beds, one stretching over 20 feet, and the other incorporating some bespoke seating. 
  • created a stage area, and covered it with a timber pergola. 
  • excavated and landscaped a previously unpenetrable corridor, into a beautifully sculpted buddleia garden, complete with pond and seat.
  • introduced well over 20 different types of plant.
  • whitewashed the rear outer gallery wall.
  • selected 5 commissioned art works which will become permanent Yarden features.

With just over a month until the Grand Opening, there are only 3 features left to design, build and install.

All designs by Andrew Branscombe.

The Living Wall will divide the yard from the car-parking driveway. In two sections, the wall will be built in a series of layers, using a variety of materials, such as tin cans, bamboo, terracotta pots, scrap bricks, straw, and hole-drilled timber.
The idea is to provide insect life - crucial to ensuring a thriving environment for the birds - with a perfect habitat, full of dark nooks and crannies. The wall will be divided by a large timber-framed raised bed for a beautiful berry-laden rowan tree, and a specially designed garden gate, and rambling rose willow archway. The final touch will be a top layer of alpines and small succulents.

The Water Feature - next to the back door, alongside the seating, we are planning a permanent water feature, made of a series of stacked, reclaimed porcelain sinks. This will stand approximately 4 -5 feet in height, and will see water constantly cascade from top to bottom.

The Yarden Gate - at the heart of the Yarden project is the hope that the space will be enjoyed by the public, and so we are planning to install a side gate, which can be accessed via Bird Cage Walk, the tiny road to the side of the Gallery. The gate will be constructed from reclaimed steel, and adorned with a series of silhouette reliefs in the shape of birds.

May 4th is the date of the Grand Opening, and we're well into discussions and plans to create a day full of interesting activities, talks, and of course, all accompanied by Sarah R. Key's wonderful exhibition of paintings, "Speaking in Tongues". It promises to be a great day.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

AirSpace Yarden - More donations

The love for the AirSpace Bird Yarden project grows and grows, as more donations arrived at the gallery today.

Gallery friends Carol & Ian Britnell have given us two cctv cameras, so we can watch and record the birdlife to our hearts content. Even better, one of them sits inside a birdbox, designed for blue tits, sparrows and nuthatches - all of which we've seen in our Yard over the past few months - and so hopefully we'll be able to bring you images of nesting and birth.

Carol & Ian have also given a collection of Hemerocallis or Day Lilies, and some Irises from their own garden.

Hemerocallis, from the Greek for beautiful, are known as day lilies as, typically, their flowers last for only 24 hours each. The daylily is often called "the perfect perennial," due to its dazzlings colors, ability to tolerate drought, capability to thrive in many zones, and requiring very little care. Daylilies thrive in full sun, although certain daylilies require partial shade, depending on color. Lighter shades, such as yellow, pink, and pastels require the sun to bring out all of their color. Darker daylilies, such as some red and purple flowers, need shade because their darker colors absorb heat.

The flowers of some species are edible and are used in Chinese cuisine. They are sold (fresh or dried) in Asian markets asgum jum or golden needles or yellow flower vegetables. They are used in hot and sour soup, daylily soup, Buddha's delight, and moo shu pork. The plant has also been used for medicinal purposes. 
Care should be taken however as not all species are edible and some species of lilies can be toxic.

The Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species.

This plant is great for a Bird Yarden, due to its attractiveness to insect life. The iris flower is of interest as an example of the relation between flowering plants and pollinating insects. The shape of the flower and the position of the pollen-receiving and stigmatic surfaces on the outer petals form a landing-stage for a flying insect, which in probing for nectar, will first come into contact with the perianth, then with the stigmatic stamens in one whorled surface which is borne on anovary formed of three carpels. The shelf-like transverse projection on the inner whorled underside of the stamens is beneath the overarching style arm below the stigma, so that the insect comes in contact with its pollen-covered surface only after passing the stigma; in backing out of the flower it will come in contact only with the non-receptive lower face of the stigma. Thus, an insect bearing pollen from one flower will, in entering a second, deposit the pollen on the stigma; in backing out of a flower, the pollen which it bears will not be rubbed off on the stigma of the same flower.
The iris fruit is a capsule which opens up in three parts to reveal the numerous seeds within. In some species, these bear an aril.

A third donation came from Beryl Stoker, in the form of a Clethra Hummingbird, or Sweet Pepper Bush.  Native to eastern North America, it is a dwarf, deciduous shrub. The leaves are oblong, 4-10 cm long and 2-4 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are green turning yellow-golden during the autumn. The flowers are white or very pale pink, 5-10 mm in diameter, and have a sweet, somewhat cloying fragrance.
The "pepper" part of the common name derives from the mature fruits, capsules which have a vague resemblance to peppercorns, however, with no element of spiciness.
This little plant is often found near rivers or ponds, and its flowers attractive to bumblebees, making it a perfect specimen for our pond area, in the buddleia garden.

Thanks to Carol, Ian and Beryl for their great generosity, which will help make the Yarden an even more beautiful place for humans, birds and insects alike.

If anyone would like to donate a bird or insect friendly plant, please contact us at